Conference Coverage

VIDEO: Move beyond BMI to see obesity as a disease



BOSTON – It’s time to move beyond body mass index and think about obesity as a chronic disease with complications that may need medical therapy, W. Timothy Garvey, MD, said.

“The term ‘obesity’ means so many things to different people,” Dr. Garvey explained in a video interview at the annual meeting of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. “It doesn’t tell you what the impact is of excess adiposity on health.”

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In fact, obesity meets the criteria needed to be defined as a disease, said Dr. Garvey, who coauthored a 2017 AACE position statement recommending a new diagnostic term for obesity: adiposity-based chronic disease, or ABCD.

“It’s not going to replace the general use of the term ‘obesity,’ of course; but for medical diagnosis, this term does tell you what we’re treating, and why we’re treating it,” noted Dr. Garvey, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Instead of relying on BMI [body mass index], the ABCD model emphasizes a “complications-centric” approach that drives therapeutic decisions, which may include medication.

“A structured lifestyle intervention is the key to therapy, but if we add medications on to any lifestyle intervention, we’re going to get more bang for the buck,” Dr. Garvey explained.

“We’re going to get more weight loss and be able to keep it off for a longer period of time,” he added. “We want that in situations in particular where the patient really has complications. This could be diabetes, it could be prediabetes, it could be obstructive sleep apnea, symptomatic osteoarthritis in the knees, stress incontinence, hypertension – any one of a number of weight-related complications that are really impairing health.”


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